Mark's Canadian Experience!
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By CI Zoe Hall - 733 (Newcastle Airport) Squadron
Cadet Warrant Officer Mark Richardson of 733 (Newcastle Airport) Squadron took part in a once in a lifetime experience this summer, a two week trip to Canada as part of the International Air Cadet Exchange.
The International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE) links Air Cadets from more than twenty different nations from all around the world. Since 1947, cadets have spent three weeks in each other’s countries in the summer, experiencing different cultures and lifestyles. CWO Mark Richardson, aged nineteen, was lucky enough to be selected as the representative for Durham/Northumberland Wing for the trip to Canada.
For the twenty one UK cadets, the long transatlantic flight and resulting jetlag did nothing to deter the excitement and enthusiasm for the fortnight ahead of them. On the 22nd July, they arrived in Alberta, Canada, to meet with the other 74 international Air Cadets they would be spending the next two weeks with.
As expected with any Air Cadet experience, several days were dedicated to aviation and flight experiences. In fact, one of the first section visits made was to No.4 Wing at CFB Edmonton which is home to the Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft. Another section visit was made to the Canadian Forces Tactical Helicopter Squadron, where the cadets were invited to come along on one of the squadron’s tactical low level flying exercises! Like many UK camps, the cadets undertook a day of gliding at Netook Gliding Centre in Alberta. However, instead of using the Vigilant or Viking gliders, they used the Canadian equivalent, Schweizer SGS 2-33. Perhaps one of the highlights of the fortnight was a trip to the Whitecourt Air Show to watch a Canadian Snowbirds display. The Snowbirds are Canada’s military aerobatics flight demonstration team. As an added bonus, the cadets had the privilege of meeting them after their display!
The cadets also had the chance to experience life as a Canadian Air Cadet in Alberta. Camp Wright, a Cadet Activity Centre was the destination for our cadets to try their hand at sailing. Admittedly, some took to it more than others, with several cadets capsizing their boat! Another day involved a visit to West Edmonton, the largest shopping mall in North America. With over 800 stores, a theme park, ice rink and waterpark, our cadets were spolit for choice as to how to spend their day.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the IACE was the opportunity to stay with a local host family for a night, to fully immerse in the local culture. Mark was taken to a Canadian football game by his host family followed by a meal in a Vietnamese restaurant!
Internationally renowned for its stunning scenery, the cadets taking part in the IACE had plenty of time to admire the beautiful sights of Canada around them. A day trip to Athabasca involved a climb up to a glacier. For some cadets from Australia, this was the first time they had actually seen snow or ice! Following on from the glacier theme, the cadets visited Lake Louise within Banff National Park, which is a lake full of melted glacier water. An afternoon was spent at the Banff Upper Hot Springs which gave the cadets the chance to relax in the natural hot springs whilst enjoying the spectacular alpine scenery of the National Park.
Of his experience, Mark had the following to say: “The International Air Cadet Exchange has been the highlight of my cadet career. I’ve made loads of amazing friends from across the globe who I will still keep in touch with now that I’m back at home. I couldn’t think of anything better to mark my final year as a cadet in the Air Cadet Organisation and I will never forget my time in Canada.”
Squadron Officer Commanding, Flight Lieutenant John Sheedy, commented on Mark’s experience: “The IACE program is one that is highly prestigious in that only a select number of individuals get the opportunity to take part in it. I was delighted to see Mark get selected as he is a hardworking and enthusiastic cadet who puts 100% effort into all activities that he does. Getting the chance to travel to Canada, visiting all the various areas and meeting fellow aviation-minded individuals like himself from across the globe, whilst representing both 733 Squadron and the Air Training Corps, is both an honour to Mark and 733 Squadron.”
733 Squadron prides itself on providing a wide range of opportunities to cadets from the local area, with activities such as flying, gliding and shooting complementing schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, BTEC qualifications and the Youth First Aid Award to name but a few. The Squadron Parades on Monday and Friday nights at Kingston Park TA Centre.